For many, the era of spontaneous and experience-based travel prior to the global pandemic included one common theme: Airbnb.
But when COVID-19 began its spread across the globe, the company was forced to consider the safety of both its house and property hosts and travelers, and adjust to the quickly adapting “new normal.”
Here, we’ve broken down what you need to know if you’re planning on booking an Airbnb for summer vacations, and what to consider before checking off all of the necessities for your trip.
Please note that as of publication time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a lengthy list of safety guidelines for traveling in the era of COVID-19. Please take into consideration the risk and safety of yourself and others who will be traveling.
Cleanliness of Airbnb Properties
There’s something comforting to a clean-oriented traveler when other Airbnb users have deemed a property “sparkling clean,” often labeled with a cute sparkling icon under the home’s features. But, in the era of the coronavirus, clean has a whole new meaning.
In April, Airbnb announced its Enhanced Cleaning Initiative—later launched in May—which the company referred to as “the first overarching standardized protocol for cleaning and sanitization in the home-sharing industry,” according to a press release.
The initiative includes the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) for property owners and cleaning staff, as well as the use of disinfectants that are approved regularly by authorities. There is also a recommended 24-hour waiting period before entering the home after travelers have left.
For hosts that are unable to complete these recommendations, the company is recommending a “booking buffer” feature, where a vacancy period is created between guest stays. Reservations are automatically blocked during that time for a minimum of 72 hours. “This concept is expert-backed and was first conceived for Airbnb’s Frontline Stays project, through which hosts have offered over 200,000 places for medical workers and first responders around the world,” according to the release.
For your own safety and understanding, feel free to reach out to Airbnb hosts about their cleaning procedures, and understand that there may be a holding period in between stays to ensure vacancy of the space in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Be patient and be sure to ask questions if you don’t feel comfortable.
The company has also committed to continuing to ensure spaces are clean and disinfected between each use of travelers and guests, and will continue to update customers as the summer progresses.
Cancellations and Refund Policies
Cancellations and refund policies vary from property to property on Airbnb, meaning the host gets to determine the length of time you have to cancel a reservation that has already been scheduled, or one that you are planning to book. Make sure to double check the refund policy and cancellation policy for each property owner you are considering before booking. That way, if an issue does arise, you are prepared for the next steps with the homeowner.
As for Airbnb reservations scheduled before March 14, 2020 through July 15, 2020 that may still be impacted by COVID-19, whether that be due to the location, the host themselves or your resistance to traveling at this time, refunds and cancellations are being handled by the company’s extenuating circumstances coverage.
“This means that guests who cancel under the policy will receive a full cash refund or travel credit in the amount they paid (where travel credit is available), hosts can cancel under the policy without charge or impact to their Superhost status, and Airbnb will either refund, or issue travel credit in an amount that includes all service fees,” according to the company’s statement.
Reservations that were made on or following March 14, 2020 are not covered by the extenuating circumstances coverage, meaning guests must consult their Airbnb hosts for next steps if they are looking to cancel their reservation and potentially receive a refund.
Before booking for future travel dates for the months ahead between now and Wednesday, July 15, be sure to check in with the host’s cancellation and refund policy as travel restrictions and COVID-19 information continue to evolve each day.
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